There once was a time that my role in life was well known to me. Comfortable. Secure. I was a woman, wife, mother and romance writer. . . not necessarily in that order. Then my husband died, my two sons graduated, married, moved on, and –a few years later– I found myself no longer a wife, no longer a day-to-day mom, and not the kind of writer I had been.
I confess, I floundered for a while and tried writing other things, most of which never saw mass-produced print because they weren’t historical romance and weren’t quite on the easy-to-sell list for other kinds of fiction and even non-fiction. Publishers hate it when you step outside the lines. And I began to question whether I even wanted to still write and publish.
Except, of course, I still had stories to tell. And finish. And sell. My problem wasn’t a career problem, I discovered, it was an “inner self” problem.
It took a while, but I realized I was going through what many women of my age and generation are going through: role depletion. I had finished the primary woman-role of the first two stages of life (Virgin and Mother). . . and had no guide, no real direction for this prolonged, uncharted phase of my life. 30-40 years of life left. . . but what kind of life? At the risk of sounding adolescent. . . who am I now? What am I meant to be doing? Am I the Crone now?
Ewwwww. I don’t want to be the crone!!!! Even the word repells me. It reminds me of the wicked witch in Snow White… with the wart on the long, droopy nose and extraneous hairs growing out of her chin. Stooped and ugly and jealous and mean. Yikes. Little wonder I refuse to embrace that as the third phase of my life. Be honest, who the heck aspires to “cronehood?”
Not surprising that I opted out of that taxonomy. But into what?
One step at a time, one experience at a time, I began to feel my way into a new life that had less boundaries and fewer absolutes. I began to lose my fears and to enjoy the here and now. And I was still confused and not especially productive in the way I thought I could be. If I only had something to strive for. . . um. . . a model, a light for the path, a concept for the way forward.
And two weeks ago, while recovering from surgery, I found one. I found THE one for me. And of course, it came from a wise and well-published woman that I respect: Clarissa Pinkola Estes. (Yes, the Women Who Run With Wolves woman.)
What I want to be when I grow up is. . . a Dangerous Old Woman.
Yes, I bought the program. And I’ve begun to listen and to be inspired. Honestly, just the promo for the program was enough to set me thinking and let me know there was spiritual gold here for me. How about this:
“No one is allowed to remain innocent for life. In the life of young tree, for example, there’s a necessary “hardening off” of the heartwood that has to occur in the first years of the tree’s life. The hardening off helps a young tree survive winters, draught, inhospitable environs. . . yet look how beautifuly a tree, like a woman’s heart and soul, will thrive and leaf out and flower and throw down seeds year after year, forward. There’s something about being assailed that relates to growing stronger and more wise. We can’t remain only sweet and moist or only kind an vulnerable forever. Yet this hardening off does not make one hard. It opens a woman to standing in her own danger, to warming and protecting the persons, creatures and creative fires that are within her reach, that are most important to her soul. Because a woman has been tested by life as she’s gathered more years, she learns to examine and to aim her life in her own chosen ways, ways that are life-giving and life-sparing to herself and others. Therein lies the ticket to ride all the way back to true home with The Dangerous Old Woman.”
“The word ‘dangerous’ is innate to what is wise– wise not being an accumulation of facts, but an inquiry into the heart of life, claiming what is stalwart, forcefully creative, and also squinty-eyed, that is, clear-seeing– which may be the most dangerous trait of all– seeing ahead to regard, help, and protect those matters of soul life that cannot be allowed to perish from this earth.”
And finally, this:
“As a representation of the Great Mother, the Dangerous Old Woman is also la refugia, the refuge, and as such she carries both the dark and light aspects of creating–and uncreating– at will. She shelters through her insights and intuitions about ways to effective guard new life and the creative fire.”
The Dangerous Old Woman is full of language that intrigues and amazes me. It makes me think of myself as laden and ripe with possibilities and filled with gifts for others. When I look at myself today, I see good things– capabilities, knowledge, intuition, hard-won life lessons, and lots of possibilities. And the cool thing is, I’ve just begun and already I can feel parts of my inner self stretching and preparing. . . for what exactly, I’m not sure.
I feel like I’m ready to embrace life and the “danger” in me– the capability, the wisdom, the decisiveness, the truth-speaking in me. And I realize I want to be that great, strong, well-tested tree under which my children and grandchildren and my friends and sisters and family all find shelter and support and encouragement. I want to understand the power of this phase of my life and I want to use it in constructive, creative ways. And I want to share this enthusiasm with the wonderful women who write this blog and with those of you who follow regularly or even just dip your toes in occasionally.
And my writer mind is suddenly going nuts with ideas and new directions and possible projects. Just reading the sales piece for The Dangerous Old Woman and listening to 30 minutes of the first CD did this to me. . . imagine what 7 1/2 hours of listening will do!
What about you? What do you think of the idea of becoming a “dangerous” old woman? Have any appeal for you? What phase of life are you in? How does it fit you well? What resources/books/ideas have helped you set a direction for your life?